Applied coachingAsk the expertbiological maturationLong term athlete developmentYouth strength and conditioning

Ask the Expert – Andrew Pichardo (St John's College)

Thanks for your time today Andrew, would you mind giving us a bit of background about yourself?
I grew up in Ft. Worth, Texas. I played football, baseball, basketball, ran track, and got into powerlifting in high school. I qualified for regionals in powerlifting my senior year in the 90 kg class. After high school, I went to Midwestern State for my BS in Exercise Physiology and minor in psychology. I did a few bodybuilding shows then got back into raw powerlifting through some fellow lifters at MSU. I did an S&C internship with our football team in spring of 2012 before graduating in December. I interned with the University of Florida S&C program from January until July 2013 before starting my MS in Exercise Science at Appalachian State. I ran the men’s and women’s golf S&C my first year before interning with the Milwaukee Brewers during the summer of 2014. When I returned to App for my second year, I volunteered with a local high school’s S&C program and taught undergraduate biomechanics labs.

After graduating in May 2015, I worked as a summer S&C coach at IMG Academy for 8 weeks then interned with the sledding sports at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center. I finished up in January and moved to Hamilton, New Zealand to pursue a PhD in Youth Athlete Development through SPRINZ AUT, working with John Cronin and Jon Oliver, two leaders in the youth field. I have my NSCA CSCS and USAW L1.
What has been your biggest influence in your practice?
Each experience had its own influences, but my first strength coach in high school was where it began for me. That was the first time I realized S&C was even a field and how interested I was in training and learning about the body. He went to App State and had ties with UF, so he also guided my path through exposing me those opportunities which have turned out awesome for me.
What is your particular area of interest in sport?
I’ve never considered myself a specialist at any one sport and have now worked with some sports I would’ve never imagined I’d work with. Coming from a strength sports background, I’ve always been interested in the training of those sports because their outcome is a direct measure of strength or power, as opposed to field or court athletes with a different type of skill and unpredictability of outcomes. So powerlifting and more recently weightlifting are areas I look to for strength and power development. I’ve also always been into biomechanics as good technique is required for intended adaptations.
How do you think this particular area applies to youth athletes?
Since resistance training is being proven safe and effective for youth, there is much research to be done on the role of maturation in different types of training, specifically weightlifting. Many fellow coaches say they don’t have time to teach the Olympic lifts or that they are unsafe; however, from a long-term athlete development perspective, teaching them those lifts early on can help alleviate that issue and help athletes reach their full potential.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as an athlete or coach?
Work hard. If you aren’t willing to get out of your comfort zone and put in the hours in the gym or workplace, you can’t expect good things to magically happen.
What advice would you give to coaches working with youth athletes?
Make sure you understand the maturation process of youth and be patient. I’m learning this as I go, but knowing whats happening and where youth are in their development can help both the coach and athlete understand positive or negative changes in movement skill or body shape.
More importantly, practitioners must keep in mind that youth ATHLETE development should use a holistic approach to shaping youth. Make sure there is an emphasis on the processes over the outcomes and realize that there is more to it than just numbers in the weight room. We want these kids to be successful, healthy citizens, so we can and should use S&C as the vehicle to deliver values such as hard work, respect, teamwork, goal setting, self-image, etc.
Can you recommend any particular resources for personal development?
Might sound odd, but I love conferences. They’re a great place to learn and network with people from all over and in ways not accessible through technology. I also like podcasts but there’s so many out there it’s hard to keep up sometimes. I would also advocate for coaches to read new research that comes out. Everyone speaks about the disconnect between research and practice, but if none of the coaches are actually seeking or reading the research, it doesn’t matter how practical the research is or isn’t.
Where can people find out more about you and your work?
I’m on Facebook, twitter @andrewpichardo6, and instagram @andrew.pichardo. And will have some articles on youth weightlifting eventually, hopefully…
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